Baring the Aegis: Hellenismos

Hellenismos, otherwise known as Greek Reconstructionist Paganism, is the traditional, polytheistic religion of ancient Greece, reconstructed in and adapted to the modern world. It's a vibrant religion which can draw on a surprising amount of ancient sources. Baring the Aegis blogger Elani Temperance blogs about her experiences within this Tradition.

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Constellation Crater: the cup

A little over a week ago, I introduced part one of this new series-within-a-series. Like Andromeda and her family, crater belongs to a group of constellations linked together by a single myth. The first part of this series, on the constellation Corvus, introduced the basics of the myth:

"Corvus represents a raven or crow in service to Apollon, who was sent out on an errant for the Theos. He was asked to bring water to Him, but instead, he paused in his quest, most commonly assumed is that he stopped for a meal of figs. When the raven returned without water, Apollon questioned him. Instead of giving a straight answer, the raven lied, and said he had been kept from the water by a snake. In some accounts, he actually had a snake in his talons as he said this. Apollon, however, saw that the raven was lying, and flung the raven, the krater with which the raven was supposed to collect water, as well as the snake into the sky, where they remain to this day. To punish the bird further, Apollon made sure the krater would forever be just out of reach of the bird."

 

 

The Hellenic spelling of the word 'crater' is with a 'k'--'krater' (κρατήρ). All 'kraters' are mixing bowls. The name comes from the word 'kerannmi': 'to mix'. The krater is named after the shape of the handles. There are four types, the 'volute', the 'calyx', the 'column', and the 'bell' krater. The handles of the volute are in the form of a spiral with flanged sides rising from loops on the shoulder to above to the rim. A calyx krater differs from the basic krater shape, but not in its purpose. It has a deep body, with the lower part convex, and the upper part slightly concave. It rests on a heavy stand and has handles which are set at the top of the lower part, which curve upward. It's the only basic krater shape where the handles don't reach, or top, the rim.  The column krater has a round body, a offset neck with a thick lip and a heavy stand. Each handle consists of a pair of cylindrical stems ending in a horizontal block joined to the rim. In short, the handles look like the tops of the columns holding up ancient Hellenic temples. Bell kraters, obviously, have a bell shaped body. They have loop handles placed high on the body, which curve slightly upward. The krater rests on a heavy stand. Which type of krater was used in the myth is unclear.

I promised last week to go deeper into the myth. The original version of it is as follows, in the words of Roman author Gaius Julius Hyginus (64 BC - 17 AD) (Astronomica 2, 2.40):

"This is the sign on which the Crow sits and over which the Bowl is placed. The following reason has been handed down: When Apollo was sacrificing, the crow, who was under his guardianship, was sent to a spring to get some pure water. Seeing several trees with their figs not yet ripe, he perched on one of them waiting for them to ripen. After some days when the figs had ripened and the crow had eaten some, Apollo, who was waiting, saw him come flying in haste with the bowl full of water. For this fault of tardiness Apollo, who had had to use other water because of the crow’s delay, punished him in this way. As long as the figs are ripening, the crow cannot drink, because on those days he has a sore throat, so when the god wished to illustrate the thirst of the crow, he put the bowl among the constellations, and placed the water-snake underneath to delay the thirsty crow. For the crow seems to peck at the end of its tail to be allowed to go over to the bowl."


There is, however, another myth linked tot he constellation, also given to us by Hyginus:

"About the Bowl Phylarchus writes this tale: In the Cheronnese near Troy where many have said the tomb of Protesilaus is located, there is a city, Elaeusa by name. When a certain Demophon was ruling there, a sudden plague fell on the land with a strange death-rate among the citizens. Demophon, greatly disturbed by this, sent to the oracle of Apollo seeking a remedy, and was told that every year one girl of noble rank should be sacrificed to their household gods. Demophon, passing over his own daughters, would choose by lot one of the daughters of the nobles, and kept doing this until his scheme offended a certain man of highest rank. He said he wouldn’t allow his daughter to be entered in the drawing unless the daughters of the king were included. The king, angered by this, killed the noble’s daughter without drawing of lots. This deed Mastusius, father of the girl, for a time out of patriotism pretended he did not resent, for the girl might have perished if the lots had been taken. Little by little, time led the king to forget. When the girl’s father had shown himself to be on most friendly terms with the king, he said he was going to make a solemn sacrifice and invited the king and his daughters to join the celebration. The king, suspecting nothing, sent his daughters ahead; since he was busy with a state affair, he would come later. When this happened as Mastusius wished, he killed the king’s daughters, and mixing their blood with wine in a bowl, bade it be given as a drink to the king on his arrival. The king asked for his daughters, and when he learned what had happened, he ordered Mastusius and the bowl to be thrown into the sea. The where he was thrown, to memorialize him is called Mastusian; the harbour still is called the Bowl. Astronomers of old pictured it in the stars, so that men might remember that no one can profit from an evil deed with impunity, nor can hostilities often be forgotten."


The third interpretation of the constellation comes from a link to the constellation Centaurus. It centers around Phôlos, a civilized kéntauros who aided Hēraklēs when the smell of the wine from Phôlos' own wineskin drove them into a frenzy. Phôlos had only meant to be a good host, but ended up giving Hēraklēs one of the biggest fights of his life. Phôlos died in the struggle, as he accidentally dropped a poisoned arrow into his foot. The Theoi took mercy on Phôlos and took the cup he had meant to serve Hēraklēs his wine in, and placed it into the sky as a reminder of Phôlos' good character and generosity.

There are some smaller, more local, myths connected to the constellation, but these are the most well know. Whatever its origin, the constellation Crater is visible at latitudes between +65° and −90°, and best visible at 21:00 (9 p.m.) during the month of April.

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Elani Temperance is a twenty-seven year old woman, who lives with her partner in The Netherlands. She has been Pagan for a little over twelve years and has explored Neo-Wicca, Technopaganism, Hedge Witchery and Eclectic Religious Witchcraft before progressing to Hellenismos. Although her home practice is fully Hellenic, she has an online Neo-Pagan magazine called 'Little Witch magazine' (www.littlewitchmagazine.com) in which she and several co-writers try to cover the whole gamut of Neo-Paganism. Baring the Aegis is also on Facebook: www.facebook.com/BaringTheAegis

Comments

  • Jamie
    Jamie Tuesday, 09 April 2013

    Thanks for sharing! How many great stories the ancients must have been able to tell around the fire at night...

  • Elani Temperance
    Elani Temperance Wednesday, 10 April 2013

    From what I can tell, at least one for every day of the year ;)

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